Image

9:14 AM / Wednesday June 29, 2022

6 May 2012

What if Zimmerman gets an all- white jury?

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
May 6, 2012 Category: Commentary Posted by:

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson

 

Accused murderer of Trayvon Martin George Zimmerman almost certainly will eventually face a jury. And what if that jury is all white? A recent Duke University study showed that all white juries in Florida were more likely to convict a black defendant than mixed ethnic juries. Though Zimmerman isn’t black, the defense almost certainly will pull out all stops to make the case that Zimmerman was the real victim and that Martin was the aggressor. In essence this means that jurors will be asked to do a defendant and victim role reversal and put Martin on trial.

 

The massive barrage of digs, innuendoes, and slanders of Martin’s character and actions that fateful night has been relentless since the killing. So the rule that black defendants inevitably get the short end of the jury stick will be very much in play in the case against Zimmerman. That’s where the danger of an all white jury comes in in the Martin slaying. It could easily happen. Two years ago a Bureau of Justice Statistics report found racial discrimination in jury selection is still rampant, even blatant. A Supreme Court ruling and other court rulings that ban all white or non-black juries have been in far too many cases no more than paper decisions that have had little effect in insuring a diverse jury in cases involving black defendants. The same holds true where blacks have been the victims, and whites or non-blacks the defendants, as is the case with Zimmerman.

 

The report found that prosecutors and judges in eight Southern states used a litany of dodges, tactics, and legal ploys to outright exclude blacks from juries, or whittle the number of blacks on juries down. In capital cases, some jurisdictions don’t even go through the legal pretense of trying to get a racially balanced jury. In North Carolina at least 26 current death row defendants were sentenced by all-white juries. A new North Carolina state law, the Racial Justice Act, and a recent courageous ruling by an African-American judge to overturn the death sentence of a convicted black murderer under the act drew national attention to the blatant bias in all white jury decided cases.

Image

 

The report also found that a racially diverse jury weighed evidence and testimony longer and more carefully, brought different perspectives and life experiences to the deliberations, and made fewer factual errors. These are crucial factors in the rare cases where cops are charged with killing young black or Hispanics. A jury with no blacks, composed of mostly older middle class whites, and non-black ethnics, is much more likely to believe the testimony of police and prosecution witnesses than black witnesses, defendants, or even the victims.

 

Prosecutors have a big task in trying to overcome pro-police attitudes and the negative racial stereotypes. Two Penn State University studies on racial perceptions and stereotypes, one in 2003 and a follow-up study in 2008, found that many whites are likely to associate pictures of blacks with violent crimes, and in some cases where crimes were not committed by blacks they misidentified the perpetrator as an African-American.

 

In three major racially charged cases in past years where blacks were the victims either beaten or killed by white cops Rodney King, Oscar Grant and Sean Bell, defense attorneys depicted all three men as the aggressors who posed a threat to the officers. They played up and exaggerated their run-ins with the law to depict young blacks as crime prone, menacing figures. The idea was to subtly and openly play on the prejudices, stereotypes, and negative beliefs of many white jurors toward young blacks.

 

Even when the victim has no criminal record and poses no threat to officers, the negative racial typecast still kicks in. This was the case when white jurors acquitted the four New York City cops tried for gunning down African immigrant, Amadou Diallo in 1999. They claimed that they feared for their lives.

 

Legal experts blame the paucity of blacks on many juries not on deliberate racial discrimination, but to the paltry number of blacks in the jury pool, changing demographics (the city is majority Hispanic, Asian and white), and the failure of blacks to heed jury summons.

 

This begs the issue. It doesn’t much matter how few or how many blacks are in the jury pool, if prosecutors (or defense attorneys when the accused is white and victim black) use a storehouse of challenges, questionnaires, and profiles, to systematically strike blacks from a jury. And sometimes, they don’t even bother with the ploys.

 

The Dallas Morning News revealed in 2006 that Dallas prosecutors systematically dumped blacks from juries for years. The Supreme Court tossed the conviction of Texas death row inmate Thomas Miller-El based on a Dallas prosecutor’s brazen racial jury sanitizing. Yet prosecutors still try to get as many whites, and as few blacks as possible, on juries.

 

The Zimmerman case jury may be fair and impartial. But to pretend that racial bias doesn’t exist in racially charged trials is self-serving and dangerous. His case could again cast an ugly glare on jury race bias.

 

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.

 

Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Leave a Comment

Recent News

Stateside

Testimony: Trump fought security official for control of the presidential SUV on Jan. 6, demanded to be taken the Capitol as the insurrection began

June 28, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump rebuffed his own security’s warnings about armed protesters...

Commentary

Guest Commentary
Solutions, not excuses; People are dying every day

June 25, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email Above photo: FRIENDS AND MEMBERS OF THE MOTHER BETHEL AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH...

Education

Community College of Philadelphia to pay off $1.4 million in outstanding student account balances

June 17, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email Community College of Philadelphia announced that it will pay off more than $1.4...

Color Of Money

Americans still have financial goals, just not sure how they will reach them

June 24, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email BPT If you have a vision for where you’d like to be financially...

Politics

Takeaways: Trump’s mind ‘made up’ on fraud ahead of Jan. 6

June 17, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email ABOVE PHOTO: A video exhibit plays as the House select committee investigating the...

Go With The-Flo

Sherri Shepherd’s talk show, “Sherri,” to air in place of former “The Wendy Williams Show”

June 17, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email ABOVE PHOTO: Sherri Shepherd (Photo: s_bukley / Shutterstock) By Flo Anthony After 13...

The Philadelphia Sunday Sun Staff